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Wildfires & Indoor Air Quality

Posted in Air Quality, on August 08, 2017

With wildfires raging for the past few weeks over parts of British Columbia, the importance of good indoor air quality is one of the issues many families are facing. In Whistler, the popular resort town north of Vancouver, people were being advised to stay in cool places and not participate in any heavy outdoor activities as the air quality index hit its highest measure, a 10, at the beginning of July.

Poor outdoor air quality can have a direct effect on indoor air quality, so making sure that those with chronic lung or heart conditions or the very young or very old stay indoors, means that having a well-functioning HVAC or other indoor air quality systems in place can be a major factor in preventing health conditions from flaring up.

Wildfires happen all across Canada, and the smoke they create can travel far distances and affect indoor air quality across the country - smoke from Alberta and BC wildfires is currently reaching the eastern shores of the United States, so if your community has been placed under evacuation or is dealing with very smoky air from a wildfire, it’s important to pay attention to the indoor air quality of your home and outdoor air quality of your community. Fire smoke contains a number of pollutants that can be harmful to your indoor air quality, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds, among others.

These pollutants in your indoor air quality can cause a number of symptoms for even the healthiest folks: itchy, runny eyes or nose, headaches, as well as a deep cough are common symptoms. Installing a HEPA filter equipped air conditioner or filtration unit is one easy way to create cleaner indoor air quality and make a space safe for you or someone who may be adversely affected by smoke. People using a portable HEPA filtration system reported decreased respiratory symptoms caused by poor indoor air quality during wildfire season, but the positive indoor air quality effects were directly related to the number of devices, how much air they could clean, and the length they were left running.

Also important is making sure that your air filtration system is recirculating air already indoors so that you aren’t bringing in new indoor air quality pollutants, and that the filters are clean or replaced regularly. Filters should be checked every 3 months during regular conditions, or even more frequently during poor air quality alerts, since your indoor air quality can decline rapidly if your filter becomes clogged. Keeping windows and doors closed is an obvious solution when smoke is affecting your indoor air quality, but keeping the blinds drawn when the sun is up can also have a great affect - by keeping your home cooler, you stay cooler yourself.

Making sure your indoor air quality is at a high level all year long is important, but paying a little extra attention during wildfire season can have big rewards for you and your family’s well-being.

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